Fire Safety

I had a piece of electrical equipment burn up recently and it made me aware of the needs for fire fighting implements in the home.  I had put it in the laundry room on the washer. Some 20 minutes later while elsewhere in the house I heard a couple of faint pops and the second one coincided with a flicker of the overhead lights in another room.  I had the laundry room door closed to keep out mosquitos as I had the other door into the garage open.  There was no smoke alarm in the washing room. In addition to orange flames, this is what I saw when I opened the door. (Photos are post dealing with the fire.)

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I could not see or breathe in the room due to acrid burning plastic fumes.

Fortunately, I had been doing some cleaning and had recently moved the fire extinguisher, a small, 4 pound unit.

In addition, I had recently cleaned a closet and recalled seeing something I had bought a couple of years ago, a vapor mask for painting, see below. I had purchased it at a Home Depot for doing farm strength mosquito fogging in my back yard. At the time I recall how impressed I was that it could totally clean the dense diesel / mosquito poison fog to the point that I could not even smell it.

I put the mask on and proceeded to extinguish the fire in the washing room. The fire might not have spread because it was on a metal washing machine but the cord was burning up, so who knows.

I was really impressed with the mask.  It turned a noxious, unbreathable atmosphere to breathable one, so much so that I could not even smell the fumes in the slightest. Pretty amazing and absolutely essential.

My point for posting this is that I believe everyone should have a fume mask of some sort in the home. It might allow you to:

  • Save your home because you can extinguish a fire early
  • Save your life because you can escape a fire or survive while you wait for help
  • Save your family or pets because you can breath while you evacuate the house
  • Save a neighbor
  • Keep one in you car for emergencies or to rescue someone from a car or other fire

I did a little research into different masks, which I will list here. For discussion, I’ll list a few and my impression.

Surgical masks – these protect a bit from heavy particles like blood during surgery and protect a sterile field during surgery.  They are OK for keeping out grass dust if you are mowing and get allergies.  They do nothing for fine dust, toxic gas or any sort of vapor. I used one to watch a building demolition once and it barely did anything.  BTW, a shirt or cloth over you mouth is about equally worthless. Don’t think that you will deal with a fire by putting a shirt over your mouth. Might help to soak it with water but I don’t know. I’ve tried the shirt idea on the ranch with burn piles and grass fires – worthless!

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Don’t know much about this one.  Available at Home Depot. You don’t have to buy 80 of them BTW. I suspect it might help a bit but the seal might not be very good. But it is compact and I’m sure it would improve the situation.

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This one is more or less the one I have. About $25 on Amazon or at HD. It was pretty amazing to go from unbreathable fumes to not even a smell. It does not, of course, protect the eyes but is pretty cheap. The cartridges are replaceable. They make cheaper / disposable ones with fixed cartridges. The seal on this one was excellent. You might be able to wear goggles with this mask. Practice putting it on. The clip on the back was a little tricky.

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Sure enough here is one on Amazon with goggles.  Pretty inexpensive but it has some bad reviews. If you can smell any fumes then it’s not doing it’s job and there are some complaints of that. What? Fake Chinese vapor scavenging cartridges? I’m shocked!

I think I would go for the 3M one. Although they are probably all made in China, the 3M is only a few bucks more.

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I don’t know about this one.  Provides full face and eye protection. There are some concerns in the reviews about quality. I’m just putting it here for comment. I think it would be worth the extra expense for the eye protection there were no quality issues. My eyes were red this morning from lack of protection. There are also some  complaints about the seal.

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There are different variations out there on this product which looks like a good item. They are around $30. Some of the kits come with gloves as well which would be easy to pack in a kit and might come in handy.

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If you watch this video (recommended), then you will probably order one today and travel with it.

And here is a bit more discussion on the Fire Escape Mask by a guy in UK who carries one around.

And I guess you could go full-on SCBA Fire Fighter fighter. This provides positive pressure breathing and protection against hypoxic atmosphere and poisonous gases that the filters may miss. I just put this here for completeness but if you are far from fire fighting help then it might be useful. But then you might want the whole suit!

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So, what is your best option?

Either the 3M +/- some swim goggles? Or a full face mask? Or the “Fire Escape Mask”. The latter seems to pack into a small and handy size and would be easy to travel with or keep stowed in a vehicle, offers eye protections and some degree of head protection.  I think the Fire Escape Mask is sort of a single use item. The 3M is a tad bulky in comparison but you can get them anywhere and also use them for painting, etc.

Fire Extinguishers

I don’t know much about them.  We have a few. The one I used was the 4# variety.  I looked around and later found the bigger one, maybe 8#, that I had bought. I got about 2 x 0.5 second bursts out of it and it reads about half empty and is non-refillable.

A quick review of fire extinguishers makes me think that bigger is definitely better. More blasts and easier to keep track of. They do make a mess. Don’t discharge one inside if you can avoid it. White powder everywhere. I’m thinking that a big, 20 pound unit might be best. You can’t really misplace it or hide it too well.  It has to be in an obvious place.

If you stow a fire extinguisher in a garage or outside, keep the nozzle covered securely with something. I had two completely nozzles completely clogged by insects (mud daubers). Both failed years ago when needed for a grass fire.

There are tons of videos on training info. I just pulled up this one. It has some good points and he doesn’t waste half the video on explaining about different types of fires.

Hoses and Water Supply

Be aware of where you have garden hoses and consider how you would quickly gather and connect them in case you had to drag them into the house. For long term storage always store them with the male and female ends connected to prevent insects from occluding them.

Fire Extinguisher update

After a bit of research, Costco seems to have the best deal.  I got an additional one to replace the one I used. This one is on sale now sweet deal at Costco for $27, half the Amazon price. It’s a good size. Big enough that you might not hide it where you can’t find it.

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What do Fire Fighters think?

I spoke with two pairs of paramedics and the FD across from my Dallas hospital. They generally concur with the need for respiratory protection but say to use common sense. Don’t be afraid to call 911 and get out. They are, like us in the medical field who try to get patient to follow basic health guidelines, are frustrated by people who don’t even have smoke alarms but they encourage this level of preparedness for those who want to be there.

City Charges for Access to Fire Department

Dallas assesses a fee based on home value if they are called for a fire. A neighbor received a city bill for $2600 recently when the FD came for a fire although they never had to do anything except inspect the scene. I did the math and it turned out to be around 0.5% of home value although I think it is officially something like 0.3% of home value over $100k.

It could indeed be not only life saving but economical to enhance your fire fighting ability.

I love the benefit I get from my maxed-to-the-state-legal-limit city taxes. I paid for my kids to go to a decent elementary school. I pay for local neighborhood police patrol and for a hospital district I will never use and now we pay extra if we summon the FD. Seems reasonable.

Share or Leave a Comment

Share the link if you think this is useful to someone. I think it is but then having a fire sort of boosts your awareness of fire prevention and safety.  I never really considered what an inconvenience this is and it was a really small fire.  Just one appliance but half the house smells like burned plastic.

Hey, go ahead and try the comments.  I’m learning WordPress and want to see how it handles comments. Nobody has tried that yet but I just enabled them. I think it might want an email address. If you care to leave a real one (not necessary, I think) I don’t think the wordpress site will spam you and I won’t either.

Cheers,

DJ

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